Middle-aged adults who practice heart health habits may have a lower risk of high blood pressure as they age. According to a study published by the American Heart Association, those who show better heart health, as measured by the American Heart Association’s Life’s Simple 7 (LS7) scale, show a significantly lower risk of developing hypertension later in life.
High blood pressure is one of the most common health conditions in the U.S., and it currently contributes to the most significant burden of disability and reduction in life expectancy. Because of the destruction of this health condition, experts agree that finding the root cause of high blood pressure is crucial in reducing the effect it has on most patient’s health.
For the study, 2,930 participants aged 45 and older of mixed race were analyzed. All participants were from the Reasons for Geographic and Racial Disparities in Stroke (REGARDS) and were contacted using mail and telephone outreach from 2003 – 2007 with a second visit in 2013 – 2016. At the start of the study, all participants were free from hypertension.
Researchers examined the association of high and low LS7 scores with the risk of developing high blood pressure within ten years. The LS7 is a measure of overall cardiovascular health. This health measuring tool incorporates seven health risk factors and lifestyle behaviors, including body mass index, diet, smoking, physical activity, blood pressure, blood sugar levels, and cholesterol. This information is used to create a single metric to estimate cardiovascular risk. The LS7 scores range from 14 to 0, with a higher number being the most ideal.
It was found that among the 2,930 participants, the median LS7 total score was 9 points, which is within the “average category.” Over a 9-year follow-up, 42% of participants developed high blood pressure. Among black female participants, 52% developed hypertension, and 50% of black males. The incidence among white adults was 37% of women and 42% of men.
LS7 Scores Correlate with Blood Pressure
Researchers found that each one-point higher LS7 score correlated with a 6% lower risk of high blood pressure. This result occurred continuously across the entire LS7 spectrum from poor to ideal. No significant difference was seen by sex or race.
“Among middle-aged people without hypertension, there is still a huge benefit to seeking optimal cardiovascular health,” said Timothy B. Plante, M.D., M.H.S., lead study author. “These findings support the current clinical practice recommendations of lifestyle modifications such as eating better, quitting smoking, and maintaining a healthy weight to all people, including those without high blood pressure.”
By focusing on heart-healthy lifestyle habits early in life, experts agree that benefits will be noticed in older age by reducing risk factors. “If we can reach more people in younger and middle age with this type of lifestyle assessment, we could be looking at strong improvements in health overall,” Plante added.